Things That Ruin a Work of Fiction for Me

Not that you care: but I have a number of small distractions that can often spell a wasted novel for me:

(1) Extraneous political intrusions--In a novel about the disintegration of the suburbs, I really don't need to read the author's opinion of the war in Iraq.  Or in Philip Roth's Exit Ghost, an otherwise excellent novel, I don't really need Roth's own intrusion on the story to tell me about how much he hates George Bush.  I'm just not that interested.

(2) Excessive use of foul language and/or sex.  Haven't been able to get through a book by Stewart O'Nan, among others for this particular vice.  I do not know people who speak this way in real life and I have no desire to make their acquaintance in ficiotn.  This is also a heavy distractor in a great many Stephen King novels.

I'm sure there are others, and I'll add them as I think of them, but that's it for now.  If you can't make your point without foul language I'm not interested. Or if your point is how much you hate George Bush--write that book, short story, poem, or play.  Make it funny and I'll probably enjoy it.  Make it serious and I'll probably set it down after two or three pages, but at least I will have known upfront what I'm getting into and I'm not likely to be annoyed at you as a writer.  Assault me with your political agenda, and I'll do a The Handmaid's Tale on your book and send it soaring (another otherwise very fine book marred by the author's relentless assault against everything she doesn't care for, and seemingly doesn't understand particularly well.)

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